There is an abundance of negativity in this world. You know it. You experience negativity every day, whether it’s yours or someone else’s by proxy. It’s the unfortunate reality of living in a broken world (I’m looking at you Adam & Eve).
I have a special challenge for you today to balance out the negativity. But first, let’s look at why pain takes up so much head-space.
The Cornucopia of Negativity
Is it me or is there an abundance of Debby Downers and Negative Nancys, these days? Seems like these folks are a dime a dozen. Is our generation worse off than the one before us?
As it turns out, probably not. According to this NY
Times article, our brains are actually hard wired to work against us. We are naturally designed to create, absorb, and retain more negative impressions than positive. This phenomenon is described several times in the Bible in not-so-scientific terms, but truthful terms nonetheless.
Jesus said to his sleepy disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)
Paul echoes this sentiment in his letter to the Romans “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me…For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” (Romans 7:21-23)
Our flesh – our hard wired brain activity – is working to bring us down.
Why are we wired this way?
Well, some of this has practical applications that keep us safe and out of trouble. If we get burned by a hot pan on the stove, we learn VERY quickly, don’t we? That is the result of being able to retain the memory of that pain so we do not reach for a hot pan without a potholder again. Score!
Negativity also affects how we see others. Oddly enough, critics are generally seen as smarter than a more tolerant counterpart. I suffered under this belief for a number of years. I believed my critics without question. This resulted in panic attacks, high blood pressure and a penchant for alcohol.
Pain takes up more brain bandwidth is because hurtful emotions – like loss and heartbreak – take longer to process. Reminders of the loss can come at any time, hitting on that same negative nerve center repeatedly. That can form a sort of rut in your brain. What you spend the most time thinking about becomes habit to recall in the future.
That’s when the spiral into anxiety and despair can take over. If the process is left uninterrupted, there is no place to go but down.
You are probably recalling the feeling of emotional pain even now with only this brief mention of the feeling. Yuck, I know, let’s get this train moving in another direction; I hear you.
How Do We Stop the Negative?
Isn’t that the ten billion dollar question? And, I am aware this question is a NEGATIVE in itself. This is the question I asked myself like so many others over generations.
I eventually realized I was asking the wrong question entirely. I could clear my mind and stop the negative barrage of thoughts, but I was not producing a positive replacement. Giving thanks fills that space.
Some Practical Steps For Giving Thanks
Giving thanks is crazy important to your mental health because it affects your overall outlook – the lens through which you view your experiences.
We can use the gift of awareness that God gave mankind and create new ruts in our brains. We can train our brains to recall more positive moments, process positivity longer, and feel positive emotions by intentionally practicing giving thanks.
Step 1 – Keep a journal of positive things.
Practice makes perfect, right? (well, almost perfect) So practice gratitude every day. My good friend and mentor Sandy Griffin has been speaking about gratitude for many years. She recommends the practice of choosing 5 things every day to be grateful for.
Here’s the catch(es): You must wait until the end of the day to write them down. that means you’ll be mentally creating a list all day, and repeating the list to yourself all day. Plus, you cannot repeat anything! This helps you get very specific and trains you to see gratitude in the smallest detail.
Step 2 – Seek out gratitude in the hard times.
There is always a positive that comes out of a hurt. Always.
Does it increase your prayer time? Force you be vulnerable and ask others for help? Serve as a reminder to surrender? Reveal your pride?
These are all painful things in the moment. But they keep us humble and closer to God – and that is always something worth celebrating!
Step 3 – Spread the love.
Gratitude for stuff and events is a great first step! The big payoff comes when you express your thanks specifically to another person
Think of all those Oprah shows where the do-gooder, out-of-work, single mother gets a new car because her children are so proud of her they have to tell Oprah!! Aren’t those the most touching and tear-filled moments!? Even if there was no music swelling in the background, you’d tear up a bit.
The point is, expressing gratitude increases those positive feelings exponentially – for both you and the person receiving.
The Thanks Giving Challenge
This Thanksgiving and Christmas season do more than stuff yourself with food and mindlessly purchasing gifts made overseas. Why not literally give thanks and create peace in your corner of the world?
Here’s my challenge to you: Make a homemade card. Write out a special note of thanks to that person you know is under recognized – a family member, a coworker, spouse, or maybe it’s someone you’ve never met. Make it genuine. Make it specific. Using markers and glitter are even more exciting!
Inside the card, challenge the receiver to do the same for someone they feel is under appreciated. Post a photo of your card with the hashtag #ThanksGivingChallenge .
This little token – this genuine paper with words and designs – has the potential to be a life-long memento of joy. Do not underestimate the power of physically giving your thanks.
Small acts have big impacts. How many lives can you touch? How much hope will you bring?
|Ginny Priz is a Christian coach, writer and speaker. Ginny has overcome her own drama with a birth defect, alcohol, panic disorder, and codependency. She has a passion for guiding others toward the same peace and freedom she has come to experience. Ditching drama is possible for anyone “armed” with God and the Serenity Prayer! It’s never too late to start your own Serenity Journey.
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